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New boss for British horse sport was ‘avid’ Pony Club member

The former Pony Club member and Household Cavalry commanding officer who is to take over as British Equestrian (BEF) CEO says his key focuses will be helping the industry recover from Covid, and minimising the effects of Brexit.

The BEF announced today (18 February) that Jim Eyre is to take over leading the federation, while Malcolm Wharton has been formally appointed as chairman for a four-year term.

Mr Eyre has spent years in elite rugby, as commercial operations director and chief operating officer of premiership team Harlequins.

He had previously spent 25 years in the military, including as squadron leader of the Blues and Royals Mounted Squadron and commanding officer of the Household Cavalry Regiment. His current role is with England Rugby as a project officer, leading the sport’s pandemic recovery programme and helping premiership clubs comply with guidance and legislation so the sport can continue.

A BEF spokesman said: “Having grown up in Lambourn Valley, equestrian pursuits featured heavily in Jim’s youth and he was an avid Pony Club member, taking part in a wide variety of disciplines. He went on to join the Army, where his horsemanship focus changed considerably and leadership skills flourished with responsibility for various sized teams, regularly in complex and high-pressure operational environments.”

Mr Eyre said he was “thrilled and honoured” to be appointed BEF CEO.

“I look forward to working with the BEF team and all the member bodies to help grow equestrianism and horse welfare in the UK,” he said.

“It is clear there are as many challenges as there are opportunities, and a key focus must be to help the sector recover from Covid-19, as well as to minimise the impact of Brexit. Looking forward to the summer, with the pandemic hopefully behind us and the delayed Tokyo Games under way, it should be a hugely exciting time for the sport and industry.”

The BEF spokesman said that in an “open and robust” recruitment process, a shortlist of four people was presented to four separate panels comprising  “key stakeholders from BEF member bodies and funding partners”. Three candidates went forward for a final interview with the BEF nominations committee, who selected Jim and recommended his appointment to the BEF board.

“Throughout the process, the various panels who engaged with Jim noted his demonstrable leadership skills, collaborative approach, excellent communication skills and genuine ability to develop relationships to achieve a common goal,” the spokesman said.

Mr Eyre will start formally on 6 April. Iain Graham, who has been interim chief executive since October 2019, will continue to support the World Class Programme. Mr Graham will work with performance director Dickie Waygood and his team to best prepare riders for the Tokyo Olympics and Paralympics, alongside his role as British Showjumping.

Mr Wharton took over the role of chairman on an interim basis in October 2019.

“He has managed the organisation through the Covid crisis, providing stability and playing an essential part of securing our funding for the Paris Olympic and Paralympic cycle,” the spokesman said.

“Having a shared love of rugby, Malcolm and Jim will work with the team to turn strategy into operational execution for the benefit of all stakeholders.”

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Mr Wharton added: “These are exciting times for British Equestrian. While Covid and post-Brexit issues are still a primary concern, we can now look forward with a sense of optimism and an exciting new chapter. I would like to say an enormous thank you to Iain for his tireless work to bring stability to the organisation and he’s been outstanding in the role.

“He’s been instrumental in securing our funding for the Paris cycle, his new vision for the executive team has proved successful, and he’s cleared a huge backlog of outstanding business whilst juggling the impact of the pandemic, the complexity of Brexit and his role at British Showjumping. I must also extend my gratitude to [BS chairman] Charles Britton and the board of BS for allowing us to ‘borrow’ Iain.

“Jim comes with an impressive CV, but what I’ve experienced in meeting him shows me real leadership, honesty, organisational skill and the ability to really engage with people at every level. He has a proven track record of success in a professional and very commercial sport, a good grasp of the equestrian industry and the drive to make a difference, which bodes well for the future.

“We look forward to having him on board and working as a team to deliver our strategy and evolving British Equestrian and our community into the vibrant, inclusive and diverse world we know it can be.”

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